Waterfront building ban is eased


Anne Arundel County has eased a month-old moratorium on && waterfront construction projects, allowing them to move forward under new, stricter environmental rules.

County planners issued 10 of 188 grading permits stalled by the moratorium almost immediately after the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission narrowed its criticism Wednesday of the county's shoreline protection program, said Frank Ward, director of the county Permit Application Center.

Another 20 permits could be issued as soon as the applicants set aside money guaranteeing compliance with environmental and engineering standards, he said.

County planners must scrutinize the remainder to ensure they do not disturb habitat protection areas. Those areas include anything within 100 feet of the bay and its tributaries, nesting areas for endangered species and nontidal wetlands.

If the work would disturb a habitat area, the applicants can apply to the county Office of Administrative Hearings for a variance from the rules, Mr. Ward said.

The county imposed the moratorium June 9 after the Critical Area Commission invalidated portions of the county's shoreline protection program that allowed the Permit Application Center to issue permits without regard to habitat areas.

Mr. Ward said the moratorium affected thousands of buildable ++ lotswithin the critical area, which includes everything within 1,000 feet of the bay and its tidal tributaries.

However, the county interpreted the commission's action too broadly and overreacted, said commission Chairman John C. North II in a letter to county officials Tuesday. "It would be extremely unfortunate if development not covered were unnecessarily interrupted," he said.

Commission Executive Director Sarah J. Taylor said Friday that the commission did not intend for the county to impose a "blanket prohibition" on waterfront construction. The intention, she said,was to force the county to ensure habitat areas are considered before grading permits are issued.

Mr. North's letter outlines how that should be done, she said.

The developer of West River Plantation, 93 single-family homes off Muddy Creek Road, was cautiously optimistic that the project would be able to move forward.

Richard Hayward, an executive with developer Lovell Land Inc., said roads, sewers and 49 homes already had been built when the county clamped down on additional permits. Because his company pays its bank $70,000 per month in interest on the land, it cannot afford additional delays, he said.

"We're extremely nervous to say the least," Mr. Hayward said.

Meanwhile, the County Council is considering changes that would tighten the local critical area program. The Critical Area Commission asked the county last year to address 22 conflicts ** with state law.

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